Collins has another published interview in Salon. It’s sad, actually—in every new interview, he says pretty much the same thing, but he digs himself in a little deeper. I ordered his book the other day, and now I’m beginning to regret it; it’s beginning to sound like trite Christian apologetics with no depth, no self-reflection, no insight…just compound anecdotes intended to rationalize a conclusion he has arrived at with no evidence. It’s distressingly anti-scientific.
For instance, we get an expansion of his hiking anecdote:
You also write about a seminal experience you had a little later, when you were hiking in the Cascade Mountains in Washington.
Nobody gets argued all the way into becoming a believer on the sheer basis of logic and reason. That requires a leap of faith. And that leap of faith seemed very scary to me. After I had struggled with this for a couple of years, I was hiking in the Cascade Mountains on a beautiful fall afternoon. I turned the corner and saw in front of me this frozen waterfall, a couple of hundred feet high. Actually, a waterfall that had three parts to it — also the symbolic three in one. At that moment, I felt my resistance leave me. And it was a great sense of relief. The next morning, in the dewy grass in the shadow of the Cascades, I fell on my knees and accepted this truth — that God is God, that Christ is his son and that I am giving my life to that belief.
When it was just a story about being awe-struck by nature, I could sympathize. I can share that feeling, and I can appreciate that the world around us is impressive and inspiring. But now we discover that Collins is impressed that it is a “three part” waterfall, and he’s suddenly driven to embrace the Trinity. You have got to be kidding me. If it had been a two part waterfall, would he have converted to Zoroastrianism?
This is unconvincing apologetics that will only be persuasive to those who have already accepted the silly dogma of a triune god. This is the patent goofiness of an irrational believer. But hey, that’s OK, he can believe whatever he wants, and I get to call it ridiculous…what I find even more damning, though, is his hypocrisy and inconsistency. Early in the interview, he makes a statement that should have haunted all of his later comments.
A lot of scientists say religious faith is irrational. Your fellow biologist Richard Dawkins calls it “the great cop-out.” How do you respond to these critics of religion?
Certainly this has been one of the more troubling developments in the last several decades. I think that commits an enormous act of hubris, to say — because we’re now so wise about evolution and how life forms are related to each other — that we have no more need of God. Science investigates the natural world. If God has any meaning at all, God is outside of the natural world. It is a complete misuse of the tools of science to apply them to this discussion.
Note that he’s saying two things clearly here: God is outside the natural world, and that you can’t apply science to the issue. Watch how he subsequently destroys his own position.
Remember, it is a misuse of the tools of science to apply them to the question of the existence of gods.
The subtitle of your book refers to “evidence for belief.” What do you find to be the most compelling evidence that there is, in fact, a Supreme Being?
First of all, we have this very solid conclusion that the universe had an origin, the Big Bang. Fifteen billion years ago, the universe began with an unimaginably bright flash of energy from an infinitesimally small point. That implies that before that, there was nothing. I can’t imagine how nature, in this case the universe, could have created itself. And the very fact that the universe had a beginning implies that someone was able to begin it. And it seems to me that had to be outside of nature. And that sounds like God.
A second argument: When you look from the perspective of a scientist at the universe, it looks as if it knew we were coming. There are 15 constants — the gravitational constant, various constants about the strong and weak nuclear force, etc. — that have precise values. If any one of those constants was off by even one part in a million, or in some cases, by one part in a million million, the universe could not have actually come to the point where we see it. Matter would not have been able to coalesce, there would have been no galaxy, stars, planets or people. That’s a phenomenally surprising observation. It seems almost impossible that we’re here. And that does make you wonder — gosh, who was setting those constants anyway? Scientists have not been able to figure that out.
You are talking about a God who intervenes in the world — the presence of a personal God.
Right. I haven’t quite finished my list of evidences. I started with the deist ones –which are the Big Bang and the Anthropic Principle — very strong arguments, by the way. But that doesn’t get you to a personal God. The argument that gets me is the one I read in those first few pages of “Mere Christianity,” which is the existence of the Moral Law, something good and holy, that in our hearts has somehow written that same law about what is good and what is evil and what we should do. That doesn’t sound like a God that wandered off once the universe got started and is now doing something else. That sounds like a God who really cares about us and wishes somehow to have a relationship with us.
Apparently, it is wrong to use the tools of science to argue against gods, but Francis Collins has some kind of divine dispensation to misuse science to argue for gods. The Big Bang and Anthropic Principle are not strong arguments for a deity at all, and certainly not the detailed dogma Collins accepts—for that, he has to resort to the pratings of a most unconvincing theologian. This is weak. Good for the interviewer for at least noticing that the subtitle of Collins’ book directly contradicts his assertion that you can’t use science in this argument.
The other excuse he used is that god is outside the natural world. Look how quickly he abandons that pretense:
But how can you as a scientist accept some of these ideas in the Bible that cut so directly against the laws of nature?
I have no trouble at all. Again, the big decision is, do you believe in God? If you believe in God, and if God is more than nature, then there’s no reason that God could not stage an invasion into the natural world, which — to our limited perspective — would appear to be a miracle.
And yet, this does seem to be a case where religion and science are in fundamental conflict. Everything we know from science says this is not possible. The Virgin Birth is not possible. The resurrection of a dead person — no matter how special — is not possible. It’s never happened in the history of the world, as far as we know.
Again, that would be the perspective if one had decided upfront that the only worldview that can be brought to bear on any circumstance is the scientific one. In that situation, all miracles have to be impossible. If, on the other hand, you’re willing to accept the spiritual worldview, then in certain rare circumstances — I don’t think they should be common — the miraculous could have a non-zero probability.
I say that if God can ‘invade’ the natural world, then he is not outside that world at all, and the nature and causes and effects of that invasion certainly are subject to scientific scrutiny. I’ll go further and plainly state that his instances of a supernatural intervention are without exception unconvincing, vague, subjective, rooted in the corrupted garbling of history, and more reasonably explained by entirely natural causes…and that scientists should not be so gullible as to so easily accept such feeble nonsense as evidence for a myth. His claim that “god is outside the natural world” was simply a dodge to evade the rigor expected of scientific claims.
Collins the theist is no scientist. When he puts on the silly hat of a Christian, he also abandons the mindset of an honest scientist.
One more thing I have to mention, because it is so absurd. Guess who we can blame for Intelligent Design?
Why do you say those arguments have been started by scientists? Because some of these scientists — like Dawkins — have said the theory of evolution leads to atheism?
That’s been a very scary statement coming back towards the religious community, where people have felt they can’t just leave that hanging in the air. There has to be a response. If you look at the history of the intelligent design movement, which is now only 15 or 16 years old, you will see that it was a direct response to claims coming from people like Dawkins. They could not leave this claim unchallenged — that evolution alone can explain all of life’s complexity. It sounded like a godless outcome.
If only those godless atheists and agnostics and secular humanists would shut up, and allow the Christians to profess that god guided all of evolution, that there is no chance, that we are created by Jesus, Intelligent Design would disappear.
It’s true. It would be because we’d all be creationists.
Now Norbizness gets into the act. Collins is toast.
So does Amanda.